All posts filed under “Brugge

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De Jonkman, Bruges

The man who has matured

I was told, by head chef and owner Filip Claeys, that De Jonkman was translated into “The Young Man”, the phrase representative of himself when he opened this modern restaurant with rooms off Bruges’s city centre. Filip has a good culinary pedigree, having worked for Bruges’s 3-Michelin-starred institution restaurant De Karmaliet and Sergio Herman’s (also) 3-Michelin-starred Oud Sluis, and within just a few years, Filip has developed his own Flemish flair by looking back into the Flemish tradition and re-approached it with a great skill set and a playful, informed mind. The proof was in the recently awarded 2 Michelin stars, and bluntly speaking, given my dinner at De Jonkman, F is definitely on the right track to the third star.

Inventive Flemish experience

De Jonkman is a dinner-only and tasting-menu-only sort of restaurant. The price started at €75 for 4 courses, €90 for 5, and €105 for 6. The meal began with the usual parade of amuse bouche. Miniature but extremely meticulously crafted. Soft boiled quail’s egg was coated with ham and cep mushroom powder and deep fried. The result was not just the soft gooey-ness contrasting with the crispy exterior but also the aroma and the bold flavours of ham and mushroom enhanced by fleur de sel crystal. Foie gras was served with green apple and salsify. The taste was three-dimensional: sweetness, light fruity acidity and subtle bitterness. While foie gras and apple isn’t usually an extraordinary combination, I found the layering of texture unique. Loose and liquid apple gel was lube-like (excuse my comparison) and added a glistening finish to the curd-y foie gras; the crunch from two-textured salsify – fried and boiled – well complemented the dish. The following was described as mustard-infused local cheese in various textures – flan-like, grated, and biscuit-ed. Very rich and contained a good mustard-y kick. Another amuse bouche of olive-filled gougere with prawns and mayo was also a mouthful of glowing comfort. My mouth also watered very much for springy octopus in soy and orange vinegar. The dressing was remotely Japanese (of ponzu-yuzu sort) but more aromatic than its counterpart. The celeriac puree added a silky touch and sweet nutty-ness. Last but not least was veal bonemarrow served with pickled aubergine caviar. The sharp pickle-y tang cut through the delectable marrow grease very nicely.

The first course (yes, first!) of Oyster & Jerusalem Artichoke was very memorable. Plump oysters were doused in seawater goodness and served juxtaposed with nutty Jerusalem artichoke discs (a light crunch) and puree (creamy). The dish became complete with pickled cucumber strips and vinaigrette jelly and fresh non-identifiable leaves that tasted distantly like celery. Together the pickle-y tang hits first and then the creamy sweetness that lingered. Oddly enough, the garnish brought me back to a good Thai memory – barely pickled cucumber slices in sugared vinegar “ar-jaad” – but with a finer touch of creamy texture. The scallops were prepared two ways. Served at room temperature, the first was marinated chopped scallops reassembled as an intact scallop and served with zingy white turnip tartar and cream cheese. Very unctuous but also not heavy. The aromatic citrus vinaigrette made the dish alive and the dehydrated chick pea powder contributed an appetisingly sandy texture. The other serving was warm: pan fried scallop in an entourage of tarragon jus (perfuming), parsley root (crunchy and almost ginseng-like) and sweet potato puree (heavenly silky!). The vinegar dressing bound the elements together.

 

 

Cannily billed “Message in a Bottle from the North Sea”, the next dish was that of live prawns. Filip approached me with a bowl of live and very big brown shrimps – sea delicacies long associated with his Flemish root. These shrimps, as F explained, were never brought ashore alive; the fishermen boiled them in seawater. The task he set himself to was to close down that traditional gap of eating precooked shrimps and to reintroduce them in the state of primal juicy freshness. Accordingly, F caught those shrimps from the sea and cooked to order.

What arrived at my table a moment later was not a dish but a neatly halved bottle (with “De Jonkman” label of course) containing a miniature of imaginative underwater seascape. The shrimps were prepared three ways: traditionally boiled in seawater, braised in squid ink and tempura-ed. They nestled on the bed of potato puree, hazelnut foam, tiny kohlrabi cones and leaves trimmed as if seaweed. Spectacular at all levels. I loved the warmth that oozed from the dish. The curd-y puree was loosened up by the foam and reformed with earthy sweetness. The intense natural sea flavour from the super fresh shrimps shone through the combo and became contrast of one another – the more salted boiled ones, the rich squid ink infused, and the weightless and crispy-est fried.

 

The highlight did not end with the “Bottle”. Red Mullet arrived mounted by a threatening sand crab. The crab, though presented with a gaping claw, was dead, deep-fried and halved. I was advised to scoop out the brown crab meat and dilute it with the red pepper jus. I decided, instead, to pop the crab in my mouth (I’m Asian) and ground it with the help of a moist, expertly sous-vided mullet. The flavour combination was that of divine comfort. The bell pepper sauce added distinctly perfuming sweetness. The side raviolo of zingy celery root and red pepper puree balanced off quite well the richness of the main component.

The last of the savoury courses was more of a filler. Filip practices the nose-to-tail philosophy and this rump of 4-year-old Holstein cow was part of his approach. The steak was seared sous-vided and finished on the grill (I assumed). It was served with wild mushroom assortment, shallots, carrot, chicory and beef jus. The beef was a good medium rare and was pleasantly chewy. The bitterness from the chicory did not overpower the garnish. Still, unlike more dishes that preceded it, this was a taste I could guess from the look of the dish. Solid cooking. Nothing too imaginative or life-changing.



Desserts, though not as memorable as their precedents, were creatively executed and expertly textured. The first dish of chocolate with hazelnut and celery root ice cream had two sides. One was predominantly chocolate-y; the other hazelnut-y. Milky celery root ice cream oozed a subtle celeriac flavour and together with zesty lime gel it bound the bitter intensity of the choc with the loose sweetness of the nuts. Passion fruit pudding with almond cookie crumbs, mango (marinated cubes and puree) and coconut (poached meringue) was delicious but less exciting. Then came the (never ending) train of petir four – pear flan with apple crisp, sunflower seed caramel and elderberry with yogurt and elderberry jelly. All was very decent. And (finally) the meal concluded with a traditional Belgian touch of a miniature but superbly crispy and yummy waffle, marinated apple and cream. The ultimate finale of madeleine was what I could have done without as it was a little too buttery for my liking.

 


 

 

GO FOR: Extraordinary food. Casual.
RATING:
5/5
INNOVATION/COMFORT:
Both!

Restaurant De Jonkman
Maalsesteenweg 438
Sint-Kruis
Bruges
8310
Belgium

Tel. +32 5036 0767

www.dejonkman.be

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The Balcon: St James’s but Not a Walk in the Park

Not bad..

The Balcon was not a bad restaurant but it was not exciting. Despite its grandiose style, the place struck me no more than a hotel brasserie. The central but obscure location of Sofitel Hotel St James, adjacent to St James’s Park, did not help. That said, the banquette was comfy, the ceiling was high and the human-bird paintings were worthy quirks. Attentive front of house..

Not great..

The menu was, like the combination of the restaurant name (The + Balcon), Anglo- French. Quite a few dishes had clear French or English origins, while others were reinterpretations of this culinary marriage. Generous bread basket. Pork Terrine “Famille Menager” (£7) tasted very much a coarse, liver-y meatball wrapped with belly lining. Not enough herbal infusion going on in term of flavour, though I could see clearly there was a lot of herbs in. Having run out of its usual Apple relish, here the terrine arrived with caramelised onion chutney. Very sweet. The pickle sharpness wasn’t intense enough for this pairing. Brioche “Toad in the Hole” (£9.75), served with medium rich garlic chicken jus, also bordered on being just nice. A thick and good quality Lyonnaise pistachio sausage hereby shafted a gargantuan loaf of brioche. One bite into this brought back some distant (but good) childhood memory of eating Asian-style sausage buns. If you call this “Toad in a Hole”, we might call them that, too. Sadly, unlike my Asian-style sausage buns, this one was quite dry for a dish priced near a tenner. Scallops with Chorizo (£12.50) landed impaled on a bamboo skewer. This was a combo that could but did not work. Succulent scallops were underseasoned and rubbery; the chorizo was mild and not pleasantly cooked (crispy around the edge but soggy in the middle, perhaps a result of being skewed together), and the sauerkraut -like garnish of apple and fennel only undermined the dish.

The main was also average. Rump of Lamb (£22 something) was paired with juniper jus. A light dish. The jus had good berry acidity but the lamb was void of robust scent. Nicely pink as requested, though. The garnish of stir-fried garlic-ed green beans with seaweed was disparately Chinese. Cassoulet (£21) oozed an appetisingly salty aroma. The confit duck leg was excellently done – crispy skin and moist meat. I, however, had issues with the stew which was lacking in bites and quite mushy. Just nice…

As I said, The Balcon was not bad but not great. There were flaws that, to me, did not justify the price and underwhelm my experience. Having taked all this into account – and thinking about the calories too! – I departed…

… sans desserts.

PS I did end up with a dozen of madeleines at the anglophilic St John Hotel, though.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “6 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “5 out of 10″.

THE BALCON

8 Pall Mall
London
SW1Y 5NG

Tel. 020 7968 2900

www.thebalconlondon.com

The Balcon London on Urbanspoon

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Choco-Tourism

My personal trainer was rather appalled I gasped for breath every five second, and I think my trip to Flanders–two full days of chocolate, chips and very fine Belgian cuisine–has much to do with me becoming unfit.

It’s definitely NOT because of the mountainous pile of sushi I consumed yesterday.

Nevermind I will try my best to get back into a non-gasping level of fitness! Before that, I’ll share my choco-experience in Bruges with you and hopefully when you make it there yourself, you will know exactly where to go and there’ll no need to binge on sugar and cocoa like me >_<

Bruges, or Brugge, is the world’s capital city of chocolate, and I must say, with its annual chocolate festival and the chocolate museum, the people there take these little sweets very, very seriously!

Walking about in Brugge, you encounter a countless number of chocolate shops–if you insist on counting, there are about 42 chocolate shops–many of which sell pre-packed, made-elsewhere, but beautifully merchandised chocolate, others gimmicky, novelty chocolate.

I won’t try to question how good these chocolates taste. I didn’t try them, not because I’m a snob, but they look boring, gimmicky and too heterosexual. Totally NOT my kind of chocolate!!

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When in Bruges …

EAT A LOT OF CHOCOLATE!!!!

Yes.

Last Monday I was in Brugge–also known as “Bruges” to the rest of the world–Belgium, the world’s capital of chocolate. Guess what–you don’t need to–chocolate was at the very top of my food agenda. There are so many ready-made and artisanal chocolate shops in the city. I was so excited tasting, picking, boxing, paying, taking pictures of chocolate truffles and praline.

It was definitely a cloud-nine moment. Until …

Until my head turned to this deli called D’s Deldycke Traiteurs, I forgot, momentarily–actually approximately half an hour–my chocolate mission. How couldn’t I, especially when I was extremely distracted by D’s Deldycke Traiteurs‘s colourful arrays of food!!

I dived straight into the pick’n mix menu of D’s Deldycke Traiteurs canapes! One other good thing about D’s Deldycke Traiteurs is that it’s a cross between a seafood bar and a deli. You can savour fresh lobsters and oysters, nibble on cured meat platters, sip Champagne, or like me, opt for the chilled food. Eating in, plus service, will cost you an extra of €2.50, but I think it’s worth it.

Here’s my selection of canapes:

(Top Left) Macaron of Chicken Liver Mousse, King Crab, Roquefort Cheese Mini-Sandwich
(Bottom Left) I can’t remember the first two. The truffle lookalike one was coated with Pistachio. The second was made of hard-textured, nutty and sweet cheese. Then, Foie Gras Coasted with Poppy Seeds and Fish Roe with Potato! Everything was just delightful!!

Mini-meal done! Looking at what’s on offer in the open fridge, I was contemplating another visit to D’s Deldycke Traiteurs.

Sadly, as I was informed by the lovely server, D’s is not opened for business on Tuesdays. My attention was, hence, turned (back) to chocolate.

OOPS!! Not THEM ones   >_<

To conclude..

IMPRESSION: 3.5/5
INNOVATION: 4/5
COMFORT: 2/5
NUMBER: 9.5


(read about rating here)

 

 

D’S DELDYCKE TRAITEURS

23 Wollestraat
8000 Brugge
Belgium

Tel. +32 50 33 43 35

www.deldycke.be